Harold Pinter, Britain's top contemporary dramatist, dies at 78Haroon Siddique
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 25 December 2008 13.25 GMT
The Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, one of the greatest playwrights of his generation, has died. Pinter, who was suffering from cancer, died yesterday aged 78.
His second wife, Lady Antonia Fraser, said in a statement to the Guardian: "He was a great, and it was a privilege to live with him for over 33 years. He will never be forgotten."
Pinter had a number of awards bestowed on him during a long and distinguished career, including the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. In its citation, the Nobel academy said Pinter was "generally seen as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century" and declared him to be an author "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms".
Pinter was best know for his plays, including his 1960 breakthrough production The Caretaker, The Dumb Waiter and The Birthday Party. But he was also a screenwriter, actor and director and in recent years a vociferous campaigner against human rights abuses, including the occupation of Iraq by western armed forces. He joined other artists such as Blur and Ken Loach in sending a letter to Downing Street opposing the 2003 invasion.
In 2004 he received the Wilfred Owen award for poetry for a collection of work criticising the war in Iraq.
His screenplays for film and television, included the 1981 movie The French Lieutenant's Woman based on John Fowles' novel. He also wrote the screenplay for The Comfort of Strangers (1989), adapted from Ian McEwan's novel, and adapted many of his own stage plays for radio and television.
He was awarded a CBE in 1966, the German Shakespeare Prize in 1970, the Austrian State Prize for European Literature in 1973 and the David Cohen British Literature Prize in 1995. He was also awarded a number of honorary degrees.
Pinter was born into a Jewish family in the London borough of Hackney. His grandparents had fled persecution in Poland and Odessa. He was attracted to acting from an early age and his political activism was evident when in 1948 he refused, as a conscientious objector, to do National Service.
After two spells at drama school he joined he joined Anew McMaster's Shakespearean Irish touring company in 1951 and wrote his first play, The Room, for Bristol University's recently established drama department in 1957. His agent said a private funeral would be held and a memorial service open to all.
Michael Billington “'A poet's ear for language and a flawless sense of dramatic rhythm'” http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/dec/25/harold-pinter-michael-billington
Michael Billington “Harold Pinter” http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2008/dec/25/pinter-theatre
David Smith “Tributes pour in for the 'writer of a generation'” http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2008/dec/25/pinter-tributes